Book Reviews

Publishers Weekly:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 2010 Jamison Odone. PublishingWorks (www.publishingworks.com), $14.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-935557-61-6

Odone’s retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reinvents the world not as dark and dangerous—as many modern interpretations have done—but with all the whimsy and wonder of a child chasing a mysterious white rabbit. Mixing text with stick figure illustrations, Odone follows an Alice who is now somewhat pluckier than in her original incarnation as she meets the iconic Wonderland residents. What is thankfully lost in the translation are the political subtexts that made Carroll’s original work less like a fairy tale and more like a story of caution. Alice is simply a girl who outwits the bumbling and the bad rulers of Wonderland. The Red Queen is a villain and not a political allegory. Fans of Odone’s other works, Honey Badgers and The Bedtime Train, will find Alice to be a departure from his regular style, but his neat little stick drawings are wholly reminiscent of how children actually draw during their early artistic years, making it an easy book to pick up. Odone’s lighthearted take on the characters is refreshing; it allows the story to breathe and see itself in a new and magical way. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Publishers Weekly:

Publishers Weekly September 2008
The Bedtime Train Joy Cowley, illus. by Jamison Odone. Front Street, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59078-493-8

When the pajama-clad boy in Cowley’s (the Mrs. Wishy Washy books) scrupulously detailed bedtime book can’t get to sleep, the solution is to board the “Bedtime Train,” en route to a muted dream landscape: “Can you hear it through the wall?/ Hear it coming down the hall?” The use of second person makes an exotic trip feel cozy, as does the legion of scarf-wearing penguins appearing on nearly every page. Rhyming couplets accompany the soothing chug of the train as it passes “a howling wolf, a growling bear,” continuing to “Alligator Lake,” and then to the realm of dinosaurs. Odone (Honey Badgers) renders images like “Bright red popcorn…/ pouring from the gum machine” as gently as the rise and fall of the poetic cadence, and his animals show no real claws, given the subdued colors as well as their affable expressions. As the Bedtime Train is engineered by Brad, “who looks a bit like your own dad” (no mothers or mother stands-in here), the grand effect is more that of roaming through a museum space than a true hinterland, enabling sleep-resistant readers to enjoy the ornate journey without overexuberance or worry about returning safely home. Ages 4-7. (Oct.)

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Publishers Weekly review of Honey Badgers February 19th, 2007: Odone’s debut book makes a deep bow to Maurice Sendak, with its somber palette and heavily crosshatched, pen-and-ink and watercolor wash illustrations. But the affectionate, dreamy text is his own. “I get along well with honey badgers,” the boy narrator begins. “In fact, I was raised by a pair-Maurice and June. They are good parents,” he adds. On the opposite page June, in a warm red overcoat, holds out her arms to a naked, Sendak-style foundling. (Honey badgers are carnivorous African mammals, making Maurice and June’s solicitousness particularly heartwarming.) Telegraphic sentences on the left-hand pages (“We have a small stream nearby to sip from”) accompany framed pictures on the right; here, the boy and Maurice, sporting warm sweaters to ward off the chill, drink on hands and knees, surrounded by a forest of gnarled trees. Visual references to myth (empty boats), fallen civilizations (Mayan stone sculptures), and wealth and education (velvet drapes and leather-bound books) give the story elegant resonance without weighing it down. “It is late now,” the boy says. “I think I’ll go to bed.” Maurice and June stand guard as he sleeps under an enormous canopy. Odone, tapping into a powerful vein of fantasy (what child would not rush to move into a cozy den with two gentle, furry parents-) has created the kind of book certain children will cling to, years after they abandon the rest of their picture book collections. Ages 4-up.(Apr.) Copyright © 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Sweet strange honey,

December 7, 2007

By E. R. Bird “Ramseelbird”

Imagine a book that was basically the lovechild of Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey, with the sweetness of a Mem Fox outing worked in there for spice. Hold that image in your mind and you might begin to get an inkling of the pretty little oddity that is “Honey Badgers”. It is difficult for a picture book to tread the fine line between quirkiness and incomprehensible muck. “Honey Badgers” not only treads, but dances upon this line, producing an oddly sweet, if baffling, tale of unconventional families and how normalcy differs within each and every household.

“I get along with honey badgers,” says our narrator. This stands to reason when you consider that a pair raised him. Maurice and June have been good to their adopted son. Certainly they are different from him. While they eat snakes, he eats flowers. But they’re caring, affectionate adoptive parents, often making kites with their boy out of ferns, living quietly in their den. The boy admits that this kind of life may seem strange to some, but it has nothing on his friend who lives with a pair of creeping beetles. “That’s absurd!” That said, he goes to bed, his loving honey badger parents looking on.

So, I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but prior to reading this book I didn’t even know that there even were creatures out there called honey badgers. You might know them by their other name, ratels. Whatever the case, as strange as the book can be, Odone has certain facts right. Honey badgers like their honey, sure, but snakes are what they’re known for eating. The Guinness Book of World Records calls them “the most fearless animals in the world”, which doesn’t really come into play in the story. And kids hoping that this book might give them some report material on honey badgers are going to be disappointed, not to mention downright befuddled.

I got a shocking amount of information off of the bookflap of this title, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on how you want to look at it. Apparently the hero of this tale is a boy. I suppose Front Street would know. They wrote the book, after all, but I am just as comfortable believing the protagonist to be a girl. I also learned that honey badgers are “considered, pound for pond, the most fearless animals in the world.” That doesn’t really come up in the story but it sounds nice on a page. The bookflap ends with, “Jamison Odone has written a sprightly nonsense tale and filled it with radiant, exotic imagery that demands and rewards close attention.” And that is something that we call all agree on.

Sendak is the greatest influence on Odone, it seems. For one thing, the honey badgers’ names are Maurice and June. If anyone can explain the “June” to me, please do. I would have done better with “Maurice and Ursula”. The art is entirely Sendakian too. From the color scheme to the mild eccentricities, to the image of the narrator as a naked baby, the book comes across as nothing so much as a gentle homage. It has a mood, however, and delicate wordplay of an Edward Gorey creation. Sentences like, “They found me in a basket, on top of a rock, covered with a herringbone-patterned wool blanket,” or the seeming non-sequitor, “Last week, an empty boat floated down the stream,” bear his mark. So too does the umbrella the honey badgers carry. It sports an emblem of a skull with feathered wings, and appears in most of the scenes. But at the beginning of this review I mentioned “the sweetness of a Mem Fox outing,” and I’ll stand by that statement. Sendak and Gorey have their charms, but it was the gentle sweetness of the book that stayed with me long after I turned the last page in the story. You can be weird all you want, but unless you provide a little heart to your tale, you’ll just remain another forgettable oddity.

Sometimes you need a picture book that’s not going to be like anything else you’ve read before. I might have been reminded of similar artists when I read, “Honey Badgers”, but I consider it wholly original in terms of text and type. Somehow the entire mood of the piece leaves you feeling happy. I can easily see this becoming a favorite bedtime story for some children, even if they can’t put into words what it is about the tale that makes them so happy. You should always keep a couple picture books on hand to build up and influence your children’s nighttime dreams. “Honey Badgers” is perfect for this purpose. Sweet, strange, sublime.

A boy brought up by mammals considered the most fearless creatures in the world, May 13, 2007

By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) – See all my reviews

Jamison Odone’s HONEY BADGERS tells of a boy brought up by mammals considered the most fearless creatures in the world – and so he himself is gentle and fearless as a result. Funny images about a boy’s life as an honorary honey badger complete with honey badger father and family provide a gentle story kids

Book provides beauty in nonsense

Honey Badgers by Jamison Odone, Front Street, ISBN 978-1-932425-51-2, 30 pg.Reviewed by Lindsey, age 13.

In this random land of autumn and nonsense, a young boy describes his odd but enjoyable life with two badgers, Maurice and June.

The young boy is discovered in a basket on top of a rock and, years later, enjoys eating flowers, sleeping in his den and playing with the vegetation around the stream.

This book makes absolutely no sense and that is probably why I fell deeply in love with it.

The gentle illustrations convey the warmth of the parents and the sprightly youth of the child.

The words are simple, with only a sentence or two on each page but the slow, gentle meanderings through a simple world, are really all one needs to relax.

A good book sparks the imagination and makes you think, just like this one. You can motor through the book or you can really take the time to get into it. Relish the details in each framed picture, imagine yourself in the heat of the cozy den, think of running wild and free through the grasses and fronds, drinking from a clear stream with a boat floating all by its lonesome.

A short review for a short book that should be cherished for a long time in the hearts and imaginations of little ones.

I give Honey Badgers, a whimsical little picture book, five stars.

For more reviews, visit: http://www.kalwriters.com/kidsWWwrite/reviews.html.

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